Khris Davis hopes to build off the success he had in his rookie season, taking the position of a suspended Ryan Braun in left field.
After a good Spring Training in 2013 (.276 AVG, 6 HR), Davis made the Opening Day roster. In his first month with the Milwaukee Brewers, he was nothing more than a right-handed bat off of the bench behind Ryan Braun. In that month (April 1-May 1), he started two games and only had 16 at-bats. He put up below-average numbers (.188/.278/.313) and it was obvious that he needed a more time to grow. He was optioned down to triple-A Nashville in early May and put together decent numbers (.250, .346, .455) in the 64 games he appeared in.
Then came the Braun situation.
Braun suffered an injured thumb that ailed him for well more than a month (hard to be sure that was the whole case, not personal issues). Oh, and then there’s the suspension he received for the rest of the season.
On July 23, Davis was called on to fill the void in left field.
Obviously, filling in for a man of Braun’s stature isn’t easy…but by many accounts, Davis held his own.
He finished his rookie season appearing in 56 games, hitting 11 homers and knocking in 27 RBI. In the stretch from when he took over in left to the end of the season (41 games), Davis had one of the Brewers’ hottest bats. He hit .294 over that span and his 27 RBI tied him for the team lead (Gomes, Lucroy) and 11 homers led the team.
The emergence of Davis in the outfield gave general manager Doug Melvin a good problem to have: too many young outfielders.
Melvin wasted no time, trading right fielder Norichika Aoki to the Kansas City Royals for bullpen help. A decision to move Braun to right field and keep Davis in left was ultimately decided, and it could result in one of the most talented group of outfielders in the National League.
It’s a bold move…they’re putting a ton of trust in Davis and will rely on him heavily throughout the season.
Of course, his position hasn’t been won outright. It comes with competition from utility players Logan Schafer and Caleb Gindl. If Davis struggles, manager Ron Roenicke will opt to platoon Davis with Schafer.
Offense is undoubtedly Davis’ strong suit, while defense is another story. His arm strength isn’t near his counterparts in center (Gomez) and right (Braun), but he has decent paths to the ball to make up for the lack of arm strength. Regardless, Davis has made defense a priority entering Spring Training.
Schafer definitely has the edge on Davis on defense, but not with his bat. If Davis can prove to be a consistent in left, the Brewers will boast one of the best outfields they’ve had in recent memory.
As far as staying healthy goes, it’s hard to say. Davis had a nagging wrist injury for the final two months of the season and ended it with a quadriceps/hamstring injury. He’s fully-healed now and looks to make an immediate impact on the left field position.
Davis has the raw talent and ability to be a consistent contributor. However with just a half season under his belt, it remains to be seen if he can keep it together for a full season.